Improving lives

Haven's latest programme brings hope and essential care to impoverished children with disabilities

Creating an environment that would allow for the integration and care of children with disabilities within the Haven centre was one of our main goals of 2010. Considerable research showed that this new programme was an urgent need for all of the children who had been identified in the surrounding areas. Due to extreme poverty, lack of education and basic knowledge there is no family support available for these children who are left alone for most of the day, to fend for themselves. Reason being that most of the family, being field labourers earning very little pay, have to work all day and every day in order to keep a roof over their heads. In order for this new programme to succeed, we knew we would have to overcome many difficulties within the local population regarding awareness and acceptance of children with disabilities. This, in itself, is really another programme of education which we began with the children at our Learning Centre and with all the MBCF staff. Gradually, we hope to hold awareness sessions for all local village adults. Having overcome the main obstacle of transportation, thanks to the new minivan gifted by Kalyan Baba, the programme was set up and began in earnest in January 2011. 

Towards the end of February 2011, visiting Haven members witnessed first hand the new life created for all of these children. Through our patient referral system and contingency fund we were able to help Oshtom, aged 7, who had to undergo eight painful operations. Today he is, for the first time in his life, able to walk independantly. He still has a long way to go to gain complete balance, and the vital physiotherapy which will allow him to reach this stage is being expertly provided by MBCF physiotherapist, Tarok. Watching Oshtom leap unaided onto the bouncy castle "staircase" so that he could enjoy sliding down was, indeed, a heart warming moment.

In addition, Haven has been able to extend this help outside the centre and into the children's homes. Sunil, aged 13, has no physical mobility at all and as he grows older and bigger the task of carrying him is becoming increasingly difficult for his parents. Now, Sunil always seems to have a smile on his face as he enjoys daily comfort and independance at home on his very own wheelchair that we were able to donate. 

Within the centre, education is definetly having a positive effect; attitudes are changing as understanding is increasing leading to greater awareness and acceptance. Today, all the children in our Learning Centre love to welcome and interact with the children with disabilities when they arrive for their regular weekly visits to our centre. The MBCF staff work cohesively and tirelessly to further this essential education and build awareness among local villagers. And the effect of this is the amazing change in attitude which is filtering through, slowly but surely. One example being the MBCF Youth Group, an integral part of the MBCF family, whose members now readily volunteer their help on the days the children are brought into the centre. Integration with the children at the Learning Centre is just one part of the time-tabled visits, a large portion of the day is given over to specialised physiotherapy which is crucial for immediate comfort from painful muscle spasms and, of course, to bring about long term improvement. In all aspects, this new programme has got off to a promising start and, if Haven has another year of successful fundraising, the once a week visits to our centre could then become twice weekly visits. This would be a wonderful achievement and help to further improve the quality of these children's lives. Already, the smiles on their faces clearly show just how much it means to them to leave their daily lonliness, even for just one day, and be part of the Haven and MBCF family.

During their time at the centre, the visiting Haven members also put the Youth Group through a gruelling assessment session in order to select potential students for the Skype Spoken English course. A comprehensive template was then created following discussion with the successful candidates which details dates, times and contents of all lessons. This template aswell as the selection process have proved to be extremely useful and will now be adopted for the planning of future Spoken English lessons. Haven member, Heather Morgan, has already begun the present course with the successful candidates and reports indicate good progress is being made. The Youth Group, having realised how our help is benefiting their lives, are now full participants in all activities at the centre. They go out of their way to help, volunteer and co-operate whenever they can with all aspects of life at our centre. The Spoken English lessons will go a long way towards their sense of self-worth which they still desperately lack and which they will need in order to hopefully venture further afield for a brighter future.

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